WITNESSING RESURRECTION Luke 24:1-12 – Easter Sunday 2013 – Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
Easter Sunday 2013
Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
Witnesses have testified to what they experienced on the first Easter morning. Three women of particular prominence are named. Mary is from the town of Magdala (today’s Migdal, northeast three miles from Tiberius) (Luke 11:24-26). Joanna is the wife of Chuza, a man who manages affairs in King Herod’s house. And Mary; she is identified as the mother of James, perhaps the James who eventually becomes the leader of the Christian community at Jerusalem. Besides these three, there are “other women with them.”
These women come in a group on Sunday, at dawn, before sunrise, when the sky has light but little heat. They walk briskly in the chilly dawn, intent on anointing the Lord’s body, properly settling it for decent burial, washing the lifeless limbs and wrapping it together with the spices which they had prepared. Not a pleasant task, but a fitting closure for a person whom these women followed while he was alive.
These women discover the huge heavy stone rolled from the mouth of the burial chamber. That surprises them. They spot the open cave and their wonder begins. They approach the tomb with hesitating half steps, on guard against grave robbers or marauding thieves. Mary Magdalene, she seems to be the leader, with one hand on the rock face, ready to scream and to run, she peers into the gloomy interior. No one there! Mary Magdalene steps into this tiny space. It’s empty, vacant. Other of the women now crowd inside. Christ’s body is not here! Only a linen face cloth rests on the burial shelf. Their mouths form large o’s.
Suddenly blinking, they witness two men in dazzling white clothes standing beside them. Terror seizes the women; their heads and shoulders slump downward.
These men say, “‘He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, when he was still in Galilee, that the son of man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ Then they remembered his words.” The women hear the angelic call to remember. They had heard Jesus telling them, “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be delivered into human hands” (Luke 9:44). And again Jesus had said, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and Scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Luke 9:22; Mark 9:31-32).
These witnesses pictured Jesus saying such, yet at that time his saying puzzled them, for they did not get it. Now these women witnesses get it, and their insight mingles Jesus’ talk at Galilee with this no-body tomb in Jerusalem.
“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here but has risen.” What act might be more self-defeating? We ought not go to a cemetery or to a mausoleum if we are searching for Jesus. We today ought not go to bloodless paper to know Jesus, the living one. We ought not go to cleverly constructed myths to seek to inform ourselves. Let us go among the living to find the living Jesus. He lives among witnesses who have seen the emptiness of the tomb and among folk celebrating His resurrection.
Let us realize that God’s ways are not the ways of us humans.
The Son, though he was in the form of God,
Did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
He humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
And bestowed on him the name
That is above every name,
That at the name of Jesus
Every knee should bend,
Of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
To the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6-11)
Such is not the human way, but it is the way which God has exercised.
Excitement is in the air; these witnesses “are seized with trembling and bewilderment” (Mark 16:8). They flee the tomb and run along the streets, now with some daylight, to the upper room where Peter, John, and the others are hiding from the authorities. These women tell the gaping Apostles what they have seen and experienced. But all of this seems but an idle tale, and who among the Apostles could credit such half-breathed gibbering? Nonetheless, even if incredulous, Peter and John must see for themselves. So they slip down the steps, hustle with the chill, and then run. They run, a hard run.
At the tomb, careful, they stoop and look in; Peter sees the linen face cloths by themselves. First he, then John step inside. It’s what the women witnesses had said, for the tomb is vacant. The body of Jesus is not here, definitely not here. He lingers, repeatedly gazes around this tiny rock-hued cave. Amazement ties his tongue.
Herod wanted to see Jesus perform a sign. Well, here is the sign! God has now shown Himself. Later that day, and for the next forty days, the risen Christ appears to the Apostles and to the women witnesses.
You and I are like the two disciples who walk that Easter morning to the village of Emmaus. Eventually, we recognize Jesus and we say to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32).
Let us rejoice and be glad, for our Lord has risen today! Amen.